Monday, January 6, 2014

Why Does God Only Answer Some Prayers

USA Today photo of  'Nearly Homeless Nick'.
This USA Today story garnered the usual complaints that God can't be real because he only saved the one homeless guy and not the others. This young man's family spotted him in the photograph and hurried to his side, got him to a hospital and is trying to get him some help. When the family called it a "miracle and answer to prayer", however, the usual crowd of angry atheists swarmed the comment section of the article.

"God cures one person of cancer and then kills thousands of others," as one wag put it. "It's not fair for God to rescue one homeless guy and leave the others in the gutter. It's a familiar argument used by both the devil and progressive socialists to argue for a more structured solution to the problem of evil. Both solutions give us a utopian workers paradise that is neither a paradise nor a utopia.

It always amazes me how people who want nothing to do with God will complain that He doesn't solve their and everyone else's problems for them. Rather like the disrespectful child who wants nothing to do with his parents and then is surprised when they stop paying his car note and ask him to move out of the basement.

God placed us here and gave us a tremendous gift - free will. Without it we'd be simple animals running on instinct or, perhaps, some kind of obedient robots. God knew it could all go wrong when He gave it to us. He knew the risk from the beginning, but, apparently, God felt that we were worth the risk and the eventual cost of His son to save us. People who want nothing to do with God often argue that He cannot exist simply because He doesn't fix their personal problems for them or end war and sickness for everyone. Nick's story in the USA Today article differed from that of some of the other homeless guys in one key way that explains the rather different outcome to the story. He had a family praying hard for him.

Unless you know the story of the other homeless guys that some commentators complained weren't rescued, you can't tell whether God was being "fair" or not. If someone chooses to live on the street, then God is not like some oppressive government. He doesn't round them up and load them in a paddy wagon and take them someplace "safe" (usually someplace with bars on the windows) for their own good. God doesn't force you to do His will by rescuing you against your own will. If you tell God you want no part of Him, then it's not terribly fair to complain that He does so once you've discovered he has left you on your own resources.

C.S. Lewis once wrote, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'" 

And yes, I know God doesn't always answer prayers the way we think he ought to - even prayers of those who serve him devotedly. There's a story in scripture that speaks to that. God told King Hezekiah he should get his affairs in order because his death was coming soon. Hezekiah prayed and prayed for his life to be extended and God finally relented and gave him 15 more years. During that time he had a son who would succeed him and become the most evil king Israel ever had. Had Hezekiah gone ahead and died that young man would never have been born. Thus, not every death is a bad thing, even your own. A follower of God lives for what he shall be in eternity, not for what he can wrest out of this world. Here we are preparing for that life that is to follow.  

Faith is all about trusting that God really does know what he is doing.  Within that framework, God's miraculous intervention or even his nonintervention makes perfect sense. That we might not understand the reason for it, is simply the limitation of our human understanding. After all, we cannot see all the consequences of any action. Our job is to choose to do what is right based on the knowledge we have and to stand for the right though the heavens fall around us.

We followers of God thank Him for when He gives us good things and even things that seem not so good. We thank Him even when things appear to be bad because we know that with God all things work together for good to them who follow Him even though we may not understand how those things can possibly be good while they are happening to us.

It's all about choice in the end and choices have consequences. Whether you think that's "fair" or not, is immaterial to the cold hard universe (or God). Who or whatever is responsible for your existence has seen fit to give you a nice warm, wet, food laden and oxygenated planet to live on against all the odds against it that such a perfect place would even exist in the first place. Given your situation, you have quite an abundance of blessings to start out with and you've been given the ability to choose which you wish to accept and which to reject.

But remember this. Along with the right to choose, comes the responsibility for your choices.

Just sayin'

(c) 2013 by Tom King

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